WHAT MEDICAL TESTS MIGHT BE DONE DURING MY PREGNANCY?

During pregnancy, your caregiver may recommend some routine and/or other tests to check the health of both you and your baby. Talk with your partner and your caregiver to understand why the tests are done, what information will be obtained and what, if any, risks are involved.

We suggest you write the following questions on a small card for your wallet. Refer to it if you are offered a test or procedure.

  • Why are you recommending this test?
  • What information do you hope to get from this test?
  • Is there another way to get this information?
  • What are the risks of this test to me and my baby?
  • If I don’t have this test, what are the risks to me and my baby?
  • How accurate is this test?

Routine blood tests

CBC/Hemoglobin

Is a routine blood test done to check for conditions such as anemia (low iron). The hemoglobin in red blood cells carries oxygen to the cells of your body and your baby’s body. The hemoglobin test checks your blood to make sure it can carry enough oxygen for you and your baby.

Blood Group and Type Screening

Is done to check your blood type and to find out if you’re Rh negative or positive. If you’re Rh negative you’ll be given an injection of Rhogam at 28-32 weeks. This prevents health problems for your baby that could occur if he or she is Rh positive. If you’re Rh negative and your baby is Rh positive, you’ll also receive an injection of Rhogam after your baby is born.  This will help prevent Rh problems in future pregnancies. Rhogam may also be given after a miscarriage or pregnancy termination.

Hepatitis B

Is a viral infection of the liver. A blood test is done to check for this infection. If you have Hepatitis B, there is a risk that your baby will be infected. If your infection is known, your baby can be given treatment at birth that will help prevent infection.

Other facts about Hepatitis B:

  • You can get Hepatitis B any time during pregnancy if you have sex without a condom with someone who has Hepatitis B (they may not know it or feel sick) or if you share needles used for drugs, body piercing, or tatooing with someone who is infected.
  • Use a condom to help protect yourself. Do not share needles or other injection drug equipment.
  • A vaccine is available to prevent Hepatitis B.

What if I am pregnant and have Hepatitis B?

  • You can improve your own health by getting early medical care.
  • Rest, eat well and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • After your baby is born, your baby will require Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG), as well as the Hepatitis B vaccine series, to help prevent baby from getting Hepatitis B.

Rubella (German measles)

Is a disease caused by a virus. Having rubella during pregnancy can seriously harm your baby. A blood test will show whether you have had rubella or been vaccinated. Since 1982, most children in Alberta receive the “MMR” vaccine, which provides protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

What if I am pregnant and not protected against rubella?
If you are pregnant now, you cannot receive the rubella vaccine. Try to avoid contact with rubella and contact your healthcare provider right away if you are exposed to it. Get vaccinated after the pregnancy is over to prevent future infection (available at Community Health Centres or Public Health offices).

Chickenpox (varicella)

Is caused by a virus and is a common childhood illness in Canada. Having chickenpox during pregnancy can harm your baby. Also, chickenpox can be severe in adults. Tell your healthcare provider if you have had chickenpox or been vaccinated. If you are uncertain, a blood test can be done to find out. If you are not immune (protected), a vaccine can be safely given to you after the baby is born to prevent future infection.

Other facts about chickenpox:

  • Once you have had chickenpox, it is unlikely that you would get it again.
  • If the blood test shows you are protected against chickenpox, your immunity will protect your baby from chickenpox during pregnancy.
  • Since 2002, a vaccine to help protect against chickenpox is available in Alberta.

What if I am pregnant and not protected against chickenpox?
If you are pregnant now, you cannot receive the chickenpox vaccine. Try to avoid contact with chickenpox and contact your healthcare provider right away if you are exposed to chickenpox. Get vaccinated after your pregnancy is over (available at Community Health Centres or Public Health offices).

Syphilis

Testing is done to check for this sexually transmitted infection (STI). Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics but if not treated immediately, a pregnant woman with syphilis can pass it on to her baby, sometimes causing miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects or low birth weight.

Other facts about syphilis:

  • You can get syphilis any time during pregnancy if you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has syphilis (they may not know it or feel sick). Using a condom helps protect you, but syphilis sores can be on areas not covered by a condom.
  • Having syphilis in the past does not protect you from getting it again.

What if I am pregnant and have syphilis?
Medicine will be prescribed for you to treat syphilis. Once you have received treatment, blood tests will be repeated to make sure syphilis has been cured.

Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV)

Is an infection that can be passed on to your baby during pregnancy, at delivery or during breastfeeding. You can have HIV for years and not know it or feel sick. To get early help for yourself and your baby, you need to know for sure by getting tested. A blood test for HIV is considered a part of good routine screening for pregnant women in Alberta. As with other blood tests, you have a right to choose to be tested or not. Please advise your healthcare provider or midwife if you do not wish to be tested. Your choice will not affect the prenatal care you receive.

Other facts about HIV infection:

  • HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
  • The number of women who are infected with HIV is increasing.
  • You could get HIV at any time during pregnancy if you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has HIV (they may not know it or feel sick) or if you share needles used for drugs, body piercing, or tattooing with someone who is infected.
  • Use a condom to help protect yourself. Do not share needles or other injection drug equipment.

What if the test is negative?

  • It means you are not infected with HIV or it has not shown up in your blood. It usually takes about 4 to 8 weeks after you are infected with HIV for signs of it to show up in your blood. You may need to be tested again.

What if I am pregnant and have HIV?

  • You can improve your own health by getting early medical care.
  • You can reduce the chance of you baby getting HIV by taking HIV drugs during pregnancy and labour.
  • After your baby is born, your baby can be given special drugs for the prevention of HIV.
  • HIV can be passed from you to baby during breastfeeding. HIV positive women should not breastfeed.